Bird Flu Is Back & It Might Be Even Worse This Time

Health experts have confirmed that another strain of bird flu has been identified in China. It has sickened and killed people and will likely continue to spread unless the country makes big changes to its live-poultry market business. 


You may remember being pretty scared in 2013 when news emerged about the H7N9 flu and how it was responsible for deaths and sickness. We assumed the outbreak was contained, but scientists have recently discovered hundreds more have been sickened by H7N9 and are saying it has the potential to emerge as a pandemic strain in humans.

So far, 571 people have reportedly contracted H7N9 flu and 212 people have died, according to the World Health Organization. The majority of cases took place in China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, with the exception of two Canadians who had recently traveled to China and one Chinese traveler to Malaysia.

This particular strain of H7N9 is different from the one we first heard about a few years ago because scientists say there is a "major increase in genetic diversity," which could make it a lot more difficult to contain and prevent using vaccinations.

This flu strain spreads among chickens in live-poultry markets and most of the people who have become sickened by it have also handled infected chickens. But experts have no way of knowing right now whether the virus might mutate the way the H1N1 swine flu pandemic did in 2009, which means it could spread more easily among people.

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It's always frightening to think an outbreak could be right around the corner, and it's especially maddening when health experts are pretty much pointing to what they consider the root of the problem—in this case, live poultry markets that travel and spread the virus—but there's no indication that anything will be done about it.

We shouldn't panic, but we should keep our ears open as additional reports emerge about this flu strain.

Are you worried about H7N9?


Image via Daniel Paquet/Flickr


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